Voter disapproval of Donald Trump’s handling of the George Floyd protests and the Covid-19 pandemic, plus the accompanying economic meltdown, have undoubtedly hurt the president’s re-election chances.
But it’s unclear whether the damage is fatal. Could Trump, despite everything, still stage a comeback and beat the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden?
Things are looking bad for Trump right now. His job approval rating has dipped sharply in recent days. Based on an average of 12 polls taken since 25 May the day Floydwas killed, it stands at about 43%, with 54% disapproving.
Trump’s loyalist “base” is said to comprise 25-30% of voters. The remainder of the 46% who backed him in 2016 will not necessarily do so again. There are signs that key voter groups are less committed – or more fiercely opposed.
A recent survey of white Christian evangelicals showed a 15% drop in support for Trump support. Among white Catholics, it dropped by 27%.
Many white suburban women deserted the Republicans in the 2018 mid-terms. This group may be further alienated by the health crisis, economic uncertainty, and Trump’s divisiveness. Older voters suffering the brunt of the pandemic are said to feel abandoned while the electorate as whole is getting younger. And for the first time, a third of eligible voters are non-white.
Revived fury over racial injustice may galvanise the black vote – a crucial 12.5% of the electorate – against the president. In 2016, black turnout declined for the first time in 20 years.
Biden’s appeal among African-Americans, demonstrated in the primaries, could reverse that trend and provide winning margins in swing states. Among all voters, Biden’s current lead is 11%.
Yet Trump has been written off before. He has the advantage of incumbency and an enormous war chest. He plays dirty. By autumn, the economy may have revived, and the pandemic subsided. And gaffe-prone Biden carries much baggage.
The protests may have scared as many Middle America voters as they energised. Nobody knows how Trump’s Nixonian appeals to the “silent majority” and “law and order” will play in Peoria.
One thing is certain: he’s a long way from beaten.